Archive for July, 2008

Braaains…

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

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Once upon a time, two cute boys misread a bumper sticker as “Pray for Zombies”. Many giggles were had, and a few months later, this poster was born as a birthday present.

As far as commissions go, this has definitely been one of the most fun. I’ve never been a huge zombie fan — they tend to be too much gore, blood, gore, body parts, gore for me — but I had a good time doing this piece. I don’t know which one is my favorite. I love that doggie, but Undead Granny has a certain charm about her too.

Will she eat the kitty? Who knows?

Remember, kids:

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

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Well, from what I understand Lazarus did it first; but Jesus made it cool.

The Dark Knight

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

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May launched a very anticipated summer movie season for me: Iron Man, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Kung Fu Panda, Wall-E, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, and finally, The Dark Knight. Let’s face it: the summer is usually a season of heavily hyped disappointers with a couple gold nuggets that slip through. I have to say on the whole I felt this summer was largely satisfactory, and went out on a very, very good note.

After the series of Batman films wound painfully down in the 90’s, I’d really written off hope for one of my favorite comic book heroes. Batman wasn’t the dark, brooding, troubled vigilante that delivered justice via brain, brawn and ingenious technology that he should have been; he’d become a James Bond full of corny one-liners that battled silly, bumbling bad guys in funny costumes. It was embarrassing.

Then Batman Begins came out in 2005. I went with expectations carefully in check, but excited at the appropriate darkness I’d seen in the previews. Was it perfect? No, but it hit all the right notes with me. I loved it. Its sequel, The Dark Knight, came out Thursday at midnight. I didn’t see it until Sunday afternoon, but everyone I heard in the interim — friends, family, fellow bus riders and strangers in cafes — had very positive things to say. I would say them, too, except the movie left me largely speechless.

I LOVED IT. It’s long (152 minutes), but it’s really two movies. Right when the story seems to resolve and your internal story-clock is thinking “ah, here’s the end”, they twist it around and give you another 45 minutes of movie. Heath Ledger’s Joker is deliciously unpredictable. Aaron Eckhart is an ambitious, well-intentioned and valiant Harvey Dent, which makes his fall from grace all the more painful. Christian Bale is… well, he’s a dark, brooding, troubled vigilante.  And you have to love a supporting cast that consists of Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman.

The mood is dark, gritty, dangerous, and beautiful. There’s a layer of wonderful anxiety over the whole movie. People died, which was refreshing; I like a movie that isn’t afraid to kill important people off. Characters are believable and artfully crafted. The costumes and technology are modern and realistic. Some of the plot was predictable, but they threw enough curve balls that I stopped guessing and just let them take me for a ride. They cover a lot of ground. The end is… poetically bittersweet and wonderful. It was a perfect movie experience as far as I’m concerned, with magic that won’t strike again, especially in light of the rumors that Bale and Nolan will not return for the third installment.

It’s rare that you see a movie that legitimizes the hype. This totally lived up to my expectations.

BONUS: They showed a preview for the film adaption of Alan Moore’s Watchmen. The Billy Corgan music pseudo-slow-mo thing was a little over the top for me, but I’m still looking forward to it. Can they pull it off? I don’t know. It’s a seriously dense piece of fiction. Here’s hopin’ they can.

This should conclude the movie reviews for a while. Probably. Maybe.

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

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I lurve Hellboy. I just want to hug him and squeeze him and tell him he doesn’t have to be the apocalyptic destruction of the universe if he doesn’t want to, I don’t care what that nasty baba yaga says. Josh, Keli and I headed out to Southside Works to check out the second movie yesterday. I have to say I went into this one with some reservations because of the trailer and, well… I’ll get there in a second.

To start out, we’re introduced to a legend via a 1940’s era Professor Bruttenholm bedtime story to a young Hellboy: long ago there was a war between humans and magical creatures (fairies, trolls, etc). The humans were winning by a landslide. In an effort to change the outcome of the war, the Elf King Balor has the trolls construct the Golden Army, 4,900 strong and indestructible. This new army annihilates the humans, without remorse or mercy. The King, horrified at what he has allowed, forges a truce with the humans — they will keep to their cities, and the magic creatures shall have the forests. The Golden Army is hidden away, and the crown that controls it is broken apart.

Fast forward a few hundred years. Hellboy and the rest of the BPRD (that’s the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) are called to the scene of an artifact auction gone horribly wrong — the place is nearly destroyed and there’s no sign of the 70-some guests that signed in. After a few devoured agents, toasted tooth-fairies and general mayhem, things get interesting. Word on the street is that Nuada, King Balor’s son from way-back-when is still miffed about daddy’s truce and has decided to reassemble the crown, track down the hidden Golden Army and destroy all of humanity with it.

But don’t worry. The BPRD’s on the job.

The movie is definitely worth seeing. Casting is perfect, save Abe’s voicing. Effects are excellent. The writing’s good — Mike Mignola, Hellboy’s creator, and Guillermo del Toro, the director, did a nice job. Costumes, choreography, animation, all that good stuff: great. Nuada does a bunch of crazy fighting stuff, even if he does back flips to do the job two steps backwards would do; and it’s weighted well enough (I hate obvious wire work). The creatures were righteous. The tooth-fairies were in classic Mignola fashion, and I enjoyed the Elemental and the tumor-baby. And this dude? Awesome.

And here’s the part where I become the picky, snobby fangirl.

It was too fantasy for me.

What’s that, Rachel? Don’t you write fantasy novels? That’s kind of hypocritical, don’t you think?

Okay, okay, but here’s the thing. Hellboy is horror. Horror. True, the stories are often based in various world mythologies and folklore; but this was too Lord of the Rings in present day New York starring Hellboy for my tastes. Blet. Even subtracting the heavy fantasy element, the dialog didn’t have the punch of the first one. I should have pooped my pants in awe when the Ruins Rock Dude sat up, but I didn’t. I wouldn’t have wished for another fight with Sammael, but the first movie had a gritty urban aspect that made me forgive it for its minor shortcomings. This one… there’s not as much of a buffer.

And to round out my griping: the young Hellboy? I commend the kid for trying through the prosthetics, but c’mon. And I’ll reiterate how much I missed David Hyde Pierce as Abe. Doug Jones did a fine job, but ever since hearing Pierce, his is the only voice I can attach to Abe… when I read the comics, it’s him I hear in my head.

Now. All that being said, I did enjoy it. Really. I promise. It just fell a little short of my hopes and dreams, which were probably too stupid super high to start out with. Usually when I see book-to-movie translations, I can separate the two stories, but I think I was too close to the source material on this one. Ultimately, it was still written by Mignola and had the guy’s creative force all over, so it definitely gets a thumbs up. This means yes, I will buy the extended DVD box-set of the movie… and I’ll worship it because that’s what fangirls DO.

“You’re in love. Have a beer.”

“Oh no. My body is a temple.”

“Yeah? Well, now it’s an amusement park.”

Waaaaall-eeee

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

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With the exception of Ratatouille, I have been able to see every Pixar movie in the theater. A Bug’s Life and Finding Nemo rank in my top five movies of all time, and are part of the feel-good arsenal* of entertainment I reach for when I need any sort of pick-me-up.

Once upon a time, I would see the trailer for the next Pixar film and say, “Really? A fish movie? How can you tell a story about fish?” Or “Really? A movie about cars? That won’t hold my interest.” And then they slap me right in the face with some really good stuff a few months later. There was none of this doubt regarding Wall-e, however.

Robots? Oh goodness, yes.

I believe Josh’s words to me upon seeing the original trailer were, “Seriously, you’re going to cry the whole time.

Wall-e opens on a desolated Earth, overrun by garbage and abandoned by its human inhabitants. Wall-e (that’s a Waste Allocation Load Lifter - Earth class) is the lone operating robot on the planet and he goes about his daily duties of collecting, compressing and organizing the trash that surrounds him. In the 700 hundred years since people left the ruined Earth behind, Wall-e has grown increasingly lonely. He explores as he collects, gathering interesting human elements from the mountains of trash, and watching and re-watching the 1969 version of Hello, Dolly. Daily life is interrupted when a rocket lands in Wall-e’s city and launches a exploratory probe. The probe is a zooming robot named Eve (or Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), and Wall-e takes an intense fascination with her, following her around as she scans every inch of the city. Once she finally recognizes he is not a threat and stops trying to blow him up, he introduces her to his home, Hello, Dolly, and his collection of people stuff… including his latest curious find. It’s this last discovery that gets things really rolling, eventually taking Wall-e up into space and to the humans’ present home, the Axiom.

It’s the artiest film Pixar’s produced, and contains the most globally-applicable social commentary — but not in a preachy, oh-come-on kind of way. The story is an even, sometimes melancholy ride, but never boring. And it’s interspersed with a warmth and cuteness that will make your heart ache.

Pixar is just good. They tickle every creative part of me. The technical execution (animation, lighting, color) is perfect; the character and set designs, flawless. The story they tell is always distilled into the most concise, dramatic, meaningful chunk of yum it can be. Dialog is never wasted — indeed, there’s only three words of it in the first fifteen minutes of Wall-e and it works. Some robots only say one thing, and they are extremely effective in that capacity. Motivations are on for each character.

There isn’t any fluff. Everything leads to something else, something that has to be there to make the whole thing work. Pixar recognizes storytelling as the art form it can be.

The only complaint I have with the movie was the introduction of a live-action element. I understood why it was there, but it did put a bit of a crack in the style and its suspension of belief. But it’s totally forgivable, and I still enjoyed the movie immensely. I would see it again in a heartbeat, and it will absolutely become a part of the home collection when it comes out on DVD.

Go see it in the theater if you can. It’s worth every penny.

*The Feel Good Arsenal reads as follows: Muppet Treasure Island, Lilo & Stitch, A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo… and Jurassic Park.